[Video transcript]

Narrator:  The events at Deir Yassin would haunt relations between Jews and Arabs for years to come.

Abu Mahmoud, “Refugee” from Deir Yassin:  “Their loudspeakers blared out, ‘Lay down your arms.  Run for your lives.’  Then I hear our machine gun.  I was kneeling down like this.  When I looked up I saw the village ablaze.”

Narrator:  110 Arabs died in Dier Yassin.    The survivors were taken to Jerusalem.

Mahmoud:  “We gathered in Jerusalem at the Hebron Gate.  We checked who was missing and who had survived.   Then the Palestinian leaders arrived, including Dr. Khalidi.”

Hazem Nusseibeh, Palestine Broadcasting Service:  “I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story.   He said, ‘We must make the most of this.’  So he wrote a press release.”

Narrator:  Arab radio stations passed on the false reports, ignoring the protests of the witnesses.

Mahmoud:  “We said there was no rape.  He said, ‘We have to say this so that the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews. ‘“

This was our biggest mistake.  We did not realize how our people would react.  As soon as they heard, Palestinians fled in terror.  They ran away from all our villages.

Source: BBC, The Fifty Years War

The following morning the surviving villagers went to a meeting with the National Committee, the local Palestinian leadership in Jerusalem.  It was up to the committee to decide how they should handle what had happened.  Abu Mahmoud remembers that the survivors were asked to exaggerate some aspects of the terrible events:

“When we arrived in Jerusalem, we were taken to a hotel near the Damascus gate.  We started asking after each other who had been killed, who was alive?  Then the leaders of the National Committee arrived, including Dr. Hussein Fakhri Al-Khalidi [Head of the National Committee in Jerusalem].  He invited some of us to go to his headquarters.  He [Khalidi] said:  ‘We want you to say that the Jews slaughtered people, committed atrocities, raped and stole gold.’  He said you have to say this so that the Arab armies will finally make a move and come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.”

Hazem Nusseibah, a senior program assistant for the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, was also contacted by the National Committee.  “Dr. Hussein Khalidi,” he says, “rang me and said we must alert the Arab countries to what is happening  I was sure there were no rapes, but we were shaken by the events.”

Ironically, it was Hazem Nusseibah’s broadcast exaggerating the atrocities that triggered the mass exodus of Palestinians from their homes.  He recalls:  “We transmitted Dr. Hussein Fakhri El Khalidi’s statement mentioning rape and this and that.  It had a devastating impact on everyone in Palestine, and the exodus began… It was the biggest blunder that could have happened.”

Source: Video version of the Fifty Years War, Ahron Bregman and Jihan El-Tahri. Penguin Books and BBC Books 1998